The digitalisation of industry will doubtlessly bring many benefits to the UK economy. A study focusing on broadband penetration conducted by Booz & Company in 2012 showed that a 10% increase in digitalisation led to a 0.6% increase in GDP. The amount of jobs in sectors such as business services is expected to increase, together with a streamlining of procedures, making the economy more efficient and increasing GDP. These are of course benefits that a forward thinking Labour Party must embrace in the interests of the British economy.
Chancellor Philip Hammond gave a speech at the Microsoft conference in October launching the National Cyber Security Strategy. He was clear that changing technology transforms our society and our economy dramatically. To illustrate this point, the Chancellor noted that in 1589 the British Inventor William Lee developed a knitting machine, and was denied a patent for it on the grounds that it would create unemployment. The Queen noted in her rejection of the patent that “It would assuredly bring them (her subjects) to ruin by depriving them of employment, thus making them beggars.”
We are living in the age of a “data” arms race. In the US “big data” was pioneered in the two Obama election campaigns. It is estimated the 2012 Obama campaign spent over $1 billion amassing and using data driven analytics. “Scraps” of data were centralised in order to understand voters. Through online transactions, supermarket purchases and social media posts a myriad of day to day online activity is logged, recorded and characteristics profiled. Via Facebook, Twitter or Reddit – if it is in the “public domain” it can be obtained. In the US political parties can now purchase data profiles of individuals in order to “target” them with campaign messages. Data can be harvested, and with the right software & resources, analysed to profile voters. This can allow political parties to create “bespoke” campaign messages, more effectively canvass and therefore GOTV (“Get out the Vote”).
On the eve of the Barcelona Smart Cities Expo, where 600+ municipal authorities from across the world will gather to showcase the latest trends in the use of digital technologies and discuss the common challenges facing them in the future , it is timely to consider how UK local government is responding and planning for the digital revolution.
As Cabinet member for Finance, Technology & Growth at the London Borough of Camden and Chair of our new ICT Shared Service Board with Islington and Haringey, over the past few months I’ve been considering how digital transformation can be better progressed across local government — interviewing leaders of councils, cabinet members and councillors; chief information officers; chief executives and senior officers.